There’s so much more to yoga than what happens on the mat. The Yoga Sutras were penned by possibly the most famous yoga philosopher Patanjali between 2,000 – 3,000 years ago.

These 196 Sutras or threads of knowledge that can be used as guide to find an enlightened life – one filled with happiness, purpose and intention.

If you’re in need a fresh perspective or a little push in the direction, the Sutras offer an ancient wisdom that can still be applied in today’s modern world.

Within these texts, Patanjali presents a path called the eight limbs of yoga. This is where the practice really goes beyond showing up in studio!

A guide to the eight limbs of yoga

The below eight limbs of yoga may initially seem a little complicated but think of them as suggestions on how to deal with our everyday stresses in life.

  1. Yama – Restraints
  2. Niyama – Disciplines
  3. Asana – Physical postures
  4. Pranayama – Breath control
  5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dyhana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Bliss or enlightenment

What are the Yamas of yoga?

Yama is all about our interactions with ourselves and others. It’s almost like the moral compass of yoga – or the principles of living for how to act in the world.

There are five yamas Patanjali encourages yogis to follow:

AHIMSA (non-violence, non-harm)

Ahimsa can be perceived as how we treat ourselves and others; both in thought and with actions. It’s really about how to live with compassion and includes how we treat our bodies and deal with injuries, and becoming in tune with our thoughts to chill when we feel anger or stress.

SATYA (truthfulness)

This is a little more straightforward than ahimsa – meaning “don’t lie” – and encourages us to be truthful in our thoughts, words and actions. Even when we think it’s easier to hide.

ASTEYA (non-stealing)

Asteya goes beyond non-stealing physical things. The principle speaks to not longing to have someone else’s success or life – to be comfortable with what we have – and to the concept as a while. This might include not stealing someone’s time by running late or their attention if they’re concentrating.

BRAHMACHARYA (abstinence)

A slightly trickier one as Patanjali is definitely believed to have meant celibacy… how most modern yogis approach brahmacharya though is to only offer your sexuality to those who deserve it and will respect you, so you can respect yourself, in turn.

APARIGRAHA (non-greed)

Ah, maybe one of the most relevant in today’s consumer driven world. Aparigraha refers to not associating happiness with shopping or objects. It’s about keeping in the present moment and letting go of collecting things; to live a more simpler life without stuff you don’t need.

Interested to explore more of these yogic principles?

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